Vehicle fires typically occur following an auto accident. Yet drivers are reporting that for no reason, their car will start smoking or there’s a burning smell and then it catches fire. What’s causing this serious safety issue?

Road safety officials warn drivers about the dangers of sudden car fires.

Recent vehicle recalls have involved defective airbags and problems with supporting steering wheel and seat belts. Now, consumer safety organizations and federal officials are warning drivers of a new trend that threatens their streets: vehicles that are spontaneously catching on fire.

Certain Kia and Hyundai models are the focus of complaints.

News reports concerning vehicle fires have surfaced again over the past few weeks. The situation is certainly a major safety hazard and one that definitely startled one driver of a 2014 Kia Optima in Florida. The driver was not identified, but in a complaint filed with National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), explains the situation:

I was driving down the interstate as I heard a loud pop so pulled over on the side of the road thinking it was my tires. As I looked at all the tires, I didn’t see anything so I got back in. Soon as I got back in the vehicle, I smelled something so I turned the car off and got out. The minute I got out of the car it engulfed in flames. The fire report showed and it was due to an electrical issue, and the entire car burnt up.”

Through research and study, The Center for Auto Safety (CAS) has found 120 consumers whose vehicles caught fire for no apparent reason. The drivers were just going down the road as normal when their vehicles caught fire. Specifically, CAS has identified four models produced from 2011-2014 that are involved:

  • Kia Optima and Sorento SUV
  • Hyundai Sonata and Santa Fe SUV

Both automakers have acknowledged the issue and say they are evaluating the safety concern and working with NHTSA to resolve the problem. If you own one of these vehicles, just be aware of this safety concern and stay alert. CAS has noted in their complaint, “that it is reasonable to conclude that more Kias and Hyundais will experience non-collision fires, which could lead to fatalities and injuries.”

Quick action is needed in case of any vehicle fire.

Vehicle fires typically occur following a crash; one such incident injured several people and one driver seriously in Denver last year. In that type of event, the reaction will vary depending on the ability of those involved in the auto accident to get out of the cars safely or if they need help. Emergency response is critical in such a situation.

If you see smoke coming from your vehicle, or if you smell something burning, regardless if there’s smoke, you should:

  • Safely, but quickly, move to the side of the road.
  • Immediately shut off the engine.
  • Get yourself and all passengers out of the vehicle and get away from the vehicle.
  • Notify the fire department.
  • Never try to put out a fire yourself. There can be unseen dangers, such as an exploding fuel tank.

Your personal safety should be your highest priority. This can be difficult if you are trying to move away from a vehicle while there is heavy traffic around. Don’t try and go back to the vehicle to retrieve anything. Phones, laptops, and other items can be replaced; but your life can’t.

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